The Houston Rockets held a three-point halftime lead when Robert Covington connected on a triple. Covington’s basket coming out of the half ignited a 19-2 run that resulted in the Rockets taking a 20-point lead. Houston would go on to score 37 points in the third period en route to a 114-80 victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder, Saturday night, inside the Arena in Orlando. With the win, the Rockets took a 3-2 series lead over the Thunder.
As a team, the Rockets shot 13-for-25 from the field, 6-for-12 from behind the arc in the third. Houston’s offensive explosion in the third quarter was much needed in helping James Harden, who scored 20 of his game-high 31 points in the first half. Covington had his best game of the series with 22 points while draining a career-high six three-pointers in the process.
“For three quarters our defense was really good — except for the second. And we made threes. Robert Covington had a big second half, and so did Jeff Green. They [the Thunder] missed a lot of shots, but I was really happy with our effort and what we did.” — Mike D’Antoni
After missing the first four games of the series, Russell Westbrook made his playoff debut for the Rockets. He scored two out of his first three field goals but struggled the rest of the game. Westbrook ended the night with 7 points while shooting 3-for-13 from the field. He also dished 7 assists and 6 rebounds in the win.
Although it was great to have Westbrook back on the floor, the Rockets did not need him to play up to his All-Star form. Houston received a tremendous boost from Eric Gordon, who added in 20 points (9-17 FG) and 2 steals.
“We know what he [Westbrook] brings to the table, and he brought that energy and excitement we were missing. We need him. He is our leader and we all know what he does for the game of basketball and our team. It was exciting to have him back out there.” — James Harden
In the loss, Dennis Schroder led the way for the Thunder with a team-high 19 points in 21 minutes. The Rockets had a rough time trying to contain the German prodigy in the second quarter. Schroder scored 18 points in the second period, as the Thunder cut the Rockets’ early 12-point lead to 48-45 heading to the half.
The Thunder lost their scoring guard midway through the third quarter, after Schroder and P.J. Tucker got into a minor scuffle. Both players were ejected.
Outside of Schroder, the Rockets’ defensive performance made it a miserable night for the Thunder. Oklahoma City shot 31.5% from the field, 15.6% from behind the arc. After back-to-back 26-point performances, the Rockets’ held Chris Paul to 16 points. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander was limited to four.
“They are not going anywhere. It’s going to be a dog-fight for the next game. To close a team out is one of the hardest things to do. We gotta win the next game. There better not be any letdowns. We will come in here on Monday and try to win it.” — D’Anotni
After picking up the Game 5 victory, the Rockets will look to close out their first-round series against the Thunder on Monday. Tip-off is TBD.